Average coverage for individuals aged 70 years across the South West has been in decline in recent years, which is why the NHS is urging anyone aged 70-79 years old to contact their GP to arrange their vaccination if they haven’t yet received it.
Shingles is a very itchy, painful, burning group of blisters caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox (varicella-zoster) virus. The rash commonly affects one area of the body, often the chest, but it can also affect any nerves including those in the face and eyes and can last up to four weeks. For some people, pain can persist for several months, or even years, after the rash has disappeared.
Dr Emma Kain, Screening and Immunisations Lead in the South West said:
“Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have had chickenpox, often as a child, the virus does not go away, but instead lies dormant in the nervous system and can reactivate later when the immune system is weakened. This reactivation is called shingles.
“As people get older their immune system naturally weakens, which is why those aged 70 and over are more likely to get shingles. Shingles can be very painful and debilitating and it can lead to nerve pain and other health problems long after the initial rash has disappeared.
“Complications of shingles can be fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70s who develop the illness which is why it is so important that eligible patients contact their GP surgery to arrange a convenient time for their vaccine.”
By having the vaccination you will significantly reduce your chance of developing shingles. In fact, in the first three years after the vaccine was introduced there were about 17,000 fewer GP consultations for shingles. And, if you do go on to have shingles the symptoms are likely to be milder and the illness shorter than if you had not had the vaccination.
All GPs are open and continue to deliver essential immunisations. If you are over the age of 70 and have not yet had your Shingles vaccine, please speak to your GP surgery today.
Shingles affects 1 in 4 people and predominantly those who are over 70. However, uptake rates of the shingles vaccine are falling in the South West and in England.
Older individuals are also more likely to develop secondary complications, such as bacterial skin infections and post-herpetic neuralgia (intractable pain).
You cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.